Full Version: Two Swords for the Legionary?
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I recently acquired a copy of Josephus and in Book 3, Chapter 5 where he describes the Roman Army and Roman Camp, he goes on in paragraph 5 to describe each footman as having a headpiece, breastplate, and "have swords on each side, but the sword upon their left side is much longer that the other; for that on the right is no longer than a span".

This quote would seem to go against conventional thinking where the Legionary trooper had his gladius on the right side, with his pugio on the left.

Due to closely packed marching formations, is he perhaps making an assumption based on just observing the Centurions, since they would be easier to identify and observe?

Is my copy/translation perhaps off? Thoughts?
Probably Josephus think the pugio was another sword. You have to think Josephus was Jew, and not roman and thereby it's no familiar with the roman militar speak.
Not to mention that a pugio with a 30cm blade really classifies as a short sword in some cultures, Josephus was not far off, was he?

Could you post the Latin sentence in question Minicius? Then let us all argue over dative, accusative and ablatives, and see what we come up with.
Unfortunately I do not have it in Hebrew or Latin, just the English translation by William Whiston.

The quote in English is as follows: "they have swords on each side, but the sword upon their left side is much longer that the other; for that the one on the right is no longer than a span".

A Span in Whiston's translation eqautes to about 10.5 inches, witha small span being 7 inches or 27cm and 18.5 cm.

My guess is he might have been looking at a Centurio since the rankers would be all packed in and hauling all of their kit.

I guess the original text would Identify if they screwed up right side from left side, and I agree that a pugio could be mistaken for a sword in some cultures, especially if Barker's "Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome" is relatively accurate on its depiction of Jewish forces.

It would actually have been Greek in Josephus and yeah, I think Cesar is right. No need to make up a reason why this has to be literally correct when it flies against other evidence. Occam's razor, as Mike B. always says, applies here.
Well, my version says:"the footmen are armed with breastplates and head-pieces and have swords on each side,but the sword on the left is much longer than the other for the one on the right is no longer than a span". Is that what yours says? He also goes on to describe their packs
and even the dolabra. To me, a span could mean a hand's span which would make it about right.
Greek version:" Makroteron d' auton to laion xiphos(sword)polloi;to gar
kata to dexion(right-?) spithames ou pleon echei to mekos".

Not sure,David, how much discussion we'll get on Greek but perhaps Stefanos will see this and come to our aid.

Sorry,Mike, this is the best I can do.Hope it helps.
A span is usually the distance between the thumb and tip of the little finger when spread out as wide as possible. Natch, that's an indistinct measure, since people's hands are different sizes, but most of the time, people settle on 9 or 10 inches as reasonable.

That's pretty close to the length of some pugio blades.
I have quite a bit of evidence that some regular auxiliary soldiers wore their swords on the left. Tacitus describes the legions in detail but does not go into describing the auxilia as they are 'too diverse'.

Trajan's Column, Adamklissi metopes... Trouble is the file is too big to upload Cry

I'll email it to you Mike. :wink:

Regarding Josephus' statement.. p. 196 in the Penguin classics translated by G.A.Williamson, revised by E.M.Smallwood....

' The infantry are armed with breastplate and helmet and carry a blade on each side; of these by far the longer is the one on the left, the other being no more than nine inches long.'
Hi Adrian,
Uhmmm, I was referring to the 'two swords' suggestion, not the wearing of the sword left or right.
Sorry, I misquoted Jasper Post amended! :oops:
Hi all,
I've read this two swords thing too.
With the one on the right hip being the longer, but I always assumed that as Josephus was an enemy looking at the troops he would note things from his point of view.
And not as we, as re-enactors do, from a first person point of view.
So for him the longer sword would be, when he was looking in the face of the soldier, would be indeed on the right.
Just my thoughts,
Wim / Cordvs
thanks for the great article and IMHO a great way to explain what Josephus was seeing.
IMHO = what?
In My Humble Opinion.
lol, thanks Andy.
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